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Thursday Night Football Preview: Can Dallas Right the Ship Against Chicago?

This is not how the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys saw their 2019 seasons playing out.

Both stuck at 6-6, this is likely an elimination game from a playoff perspective. While Dallas still leads a mediocre division and could be division champs even with a loss, Chicago trails both the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers and likely needs a win to stay alive.

If we look at this matchup on paper based on our power rankings, this should be a bloodbath. The Cowboys clock in fourth, while the home Bears rank only 22nd.

Will it play out that way?

Quarterback Breakdown

If this were a boxing matchup, the preliminary results between these two passers would be a first-round knock out.

In terms of Passing Net Expected Points (NEP) per drop back, Dak Prescott has been one of the league's best quarterbacks, ranking fifth with a mark 0.29. Mitchell Trubisky, meanwhile, has been absolutely brutal this season with a clip of 0.02 -- good for 26th out of 35 passers with 150 or more drop backs.

In terms of Passing Success Rate -- the percentage of drop backs which result in a positive NEP -- Prescott rockets up to second (54.43%) while Trubisky ranks only 24th (45.22%).

In looking at average intended air yards (the average air yards a passer throws on all attempts), it doesn't get better for Trubisky -- he has a mark of 8.0 while Prescott smokes him with a clip of 9.4.

With a clear advantage to the Cowboys in the passing game, how do the running games compare?

Running Back Play

At first glance, this looks like to be a big-time mismatch at the running back slot.

Despite struggling to run the football in recent games, Ezekiel Elliott has been quite efficient with a heavy workload in 2019. With 227 carries to his name, among the 35 running backs with 100 or more carries, Zeke checks in 10th in the league in Rushing NEP per Rush (0.02).

By comparison, rookie David Montgomery has struggled mightily. In that same group, Montgomery ranks as the third-worst runner on the year (-0.12), and he sits fifth-worst in terms of Rushing Success Rate (34.88%).

The offensive advantage -- pretty much across the board -- goes to Dallas tonight.

Defensive Matchup

The Bears, however, dominate this matchup from a defensive perspective.

Overall, the Bears rank fourth in defense, including ninth against the pass and seventh versus the run. They have once again been one of the league's elite defensive units. Only the New Orleans Saints have eclipsed 400 total yards against this squad, and they've held four teams to under 250 yards of total offense.

The Cowboys' D? Meh, not so much. They rank 22nd overall, including 20th against the pass and 17th against the run. While they've been decent in allowing only two 300-yard passers (Eli Manning and Sam Darnold), and they've given up 100 or more rushing yards in six straight contests.

In reviewing Football Outsiders' adjusted sack rate, this is the one defensive metric that favors the 'Boys. They rank 14th with a mark of (7.4%) while Chicago has struggled, ranking 23rd (6.6%).

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